July 15, 2013
So, I realized that I forgot to tell you guys about our funny little experience two or three weeks ago.
First, I have to explain the culture here with the missionaries. They LOVE us. When I was told that my first area would be Tarapoto, I was also told that it is the hardest area in the mission, and that the people rely on the missionaries. They told me that we're the rock of the church here. Well, I quickly found out the truth of this. The people really need us because the church here is new and small and needs a lot of help. Because of this, they just love us...and love us...and LOVE US. It's beautiful really.
You know how there's almost always the stereotypical testimony lines: I know the church is true, I know Joseph Smith was a Prophet, I know Thomas S. Monson is a prophet, ect.? Here, almost every testimony shared includes the line "I know that missionaries are angels sent from God." It's really great, and really humbling.
Well, when we had our Branch Conference a few weeks ago, the District President was talking about, as always, what they can do to help their missionaries. He was chastising them saying "As a Branch, we need to come together and start giving more thanks to God for the four blessed missionaries that we have here. We cannot allow that these angels starve. When we share food with them, we serve God. Why are we allowing them to starve right now??"
Okay, I've really never been starving. We always have appointments to eat lunch with members, and we eat breakfast and dinner in the house. But, after this talk, the whole Branch is sure that we're dying of starvation. Well, might I just add that another cultural thing here is that one of the biggest insults in the world is to reject food when someone offers you. So, I'm sure you can guess what I've been doing since this talk....eating, and eating, and eating a little bit more. Sometimes I swear I'm going to explode!
Our funniest experience ever was this week. There is a food-type thing here and it's literal translation is "Juice of purple corn, more solid." It is like a warm, super thick Jello-type substance made from purple corn, with little pieces of corn and potato in it. This sister offered us a cup and, as always, I choked it down with a smile. Well, little did I know she was going to bring me out FIVE MORE! It was crazy and hilarious. I thought I would explode!
Another brother had a bunch of leftover cake from a birthday and he gave us each a HUGE slice. I ate it happily, and when he saw how happy I was he went into the kitchen to get more. While he was in the kitchen, my companion looked at me with a panic and told me she was sick to her stomach and couldn't eat it. She started whispering "Eat Gringa, eat, eat eat!" So, I somehow downed her slice in about two minutes. Then, the Brother returned with my plate that had 3 more HUGE slices of this cake. It was super rich and I thought I would puke...and then he brought us out two cups each of hot chocolate milk. The second we left we just burst out laughing and I thought I would puke, but I kept it down.
Well, aside from these funny experiences, I've had a couple rough, eye-opening experiences this week as well. I really thought that Saturday would do me in.
Hermana Jianae is a recent convert in the Branch and she is just so amazing. Well, this week she was robbed of just about everything. We showed up at her house to visit her and she was just sobbing and sobbing. She had nothing to eat. It turned out one of our Investigators was doing a fundraiser for her wedding this week and was selling chicken, so we decided to bring out plates to Hermana Jianae for her and her son to eat. Walking into her house almost killed me as they were getting ready to eat and I saw what they were about to eat..some sort of mixture of things that I'm sure she found in the yard. The look on her son's face seriously could have killed me. He was sitting there with a sad, but brave look on his face because, even at six years old, he knew that he had no other choice. He was so incredibly grateful when we came in. It was so hard to look at him and think Wow, at six years old, I was crying if my hamburger had onions on it.
Then, 5 minutes before one of our investigators had her Baptismal interview, she decided to tell us that she lied to us and that she's actually does have a boyfriend, she is living with him, and he's a returned missionary and she was scared to tell us that because he didn't want the church to find out what he was doing. I basically had a full on panic attack. On the outside I was keeping my cool, sharing scriptures, and helping her work through her options, but inside I was dying. Then, it turned out in her interview that there was another little surprise in her interview and she will have to wait until she can have an interview with our Mission President to be Baptized.
Then, we went to visit one of our new (and one of my favorites) investigators, who was super silent and finally said, "Hermanas, I just found out that my cousin might be able to help me find work in Lima, but I have to leave tomorrow." All we could do was pass his name on to the missionaries there.
Then, we went to visit one of our less active families that we've been working with that has really been showing progress, and the kids answered the door. When we asked for their dad, they informed us that he was "Extremely drunk." After three years sober, something had set him off that day. We have no idea where this could go, he was doing so well.
But, after everything that I've learned, the most important thing is that, as I was told, I am part of the ROCK of these people. When all these things are happening and all I want to do is break down and cry, I have realized that I have to just pray for help to be constant. I have to be the exact same person that I would be if everything was absolutely perfect.
It is hard to have the people rely on me so much, but it really is an honor and it is all worth it because I KNOW I can make a difference. I know it. After all, that's why I'm here! Despite everything, I am happy. I am constant.
LOVE YOU ALL!!!